By: Justin Beckner
Lamb of God front man, Randy Blythe has recently expanded his artistic outlets to include photography, journalism, and political activism. He also recently wrote a book detailing the highly publicized incident in Prague, when Randy was detained on manslaughter charges after a fan passed away at a show. In the following interview, we discuss these outlets as well as future plans for Lamb of God – one of the most well respected modern metal bands.
I just read the article you did for Rolling Stone on your visit to Standing Rock. They had quite a victory out there this weekend.
Yeah, I would say there is a feeling of cautious elation because I don’t think it’s over yet. But the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the easement and they have to do a more in-depth study on the ecological and environmental impact of the pipeline and that, from what I understand, could take up to two years. We’re going to see what’s happening. I wouldn’t say it’s over yet but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for not only the sovereignty of indigenous people, because these people do have treaties between the US and their sovereign nation stating that land going back to the 1800s is sovereign land – they’ve never seceded it. But a lot of people don’t understand that. There’s over a billion dollars sitting in the federal reserve gathering interest that the US government offered them in 1980, I believe, it was 100 million at that time. The US admitted that they screwed up and broke treaties and took their land and tried to give them money to go away and the Sioux have refused it to this day. They’ve said, No we don’t want your money, we want you to honor the treaties that have been broken again and again and again. So that one whole aspect of it. The other aspect of it, I think, that needs to be looked at, and I think is heartening in a big picture kind of way, is that we don’t need to be building more infrastructure to transport fossil fuels that are A: really damaging to the environment and B: they’re going to run out. We don’t have 100 million years for whatever organic matter is decaying right now to turn into more oil and gas and coal. It’s going to run out. The rate of consumption is ridiculous – the human race is multiplying rapidly. The population gets bigger and bigger and the demand will get bigger and bigger. What are we going to do when all the oil and coal runs out? We need to start looking for clean energy alternatives now. We can’t wait. We need to figure it out now.
What can we do, as music fans, as human beings, to help bring awareness to this? I know you’ve been doing a lot of charitable stuff through Lamb of God and through the magazine and other various outlets.
Well I’ve written some songs that deal with the environment with the band. We are a heavy metal band. We aren’t a political party. I haven’t discussed my trip to Standing Rock with any of the other dudes in the band. We don’t have a unified front on it or anything like that – I went on my own. So for me, the first step was going there, bringing supplies, and supporting the people. The second step for me is doing things like this and talking about it. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since my trip. I think that people on both a local and national legislative level need to become involved in the process and start demanding of our lawmakers that we start investing in clean alternatives to fossil fuels and how to make that transition. If we can make the legislative bodies to put some restrictions on this constant drilling and fracking and put some restrictions on the use of these fossil fuels. We have a huge surplus of oil right now. There’s no need for us to be drilling and drilling and getting more and more. If we can do that on a legislative level, then these larger companies will have to consider their business and perhaps they can work with scientists and environmental agencies and figure out how to transition from this fossil fuel dependency and the energy industry in general into clean alternatives. It’s going to take people speaking through their representatives. It’s not going to be marching and flag waving that’s going to make it happen, it’s going to take a demand of the people through their government to figure something out. So I would say become involved in politics at a local level and see what you can do.
I can certainly appreciate you bringing these subjects to light within the metal community because if there’s anyone who knows how to make noise, it’s the heavy metal community. They’re a passionate group.
Yeah and there were a lot of fans up at Standing Rock. That’s one reason why I went. I put on my Instagram that I was going. I wanted those people to know that I was coming to support them and raise my voice with them. It was a really positive experience. I didn’t see any violence. I didn’t get wind of any violence. I met a lot of fans, Native and some non-Native. Everybody treated me really awesome and treated me with respect and said they appreciated me being there. I tried to be a useful presence in the camp and do what I could.
I know we have limited time so I want to move to another project – UNBUILT Magazine, which has become another creative outlet for you. How did that whole thing come together?
Alex Skolnick and I have a friend named Tom Bejgrowicz who is a designer who has worked in the music industry for years. I believe he worked for Capitol Records for a while. He’s done some record designs for various bands. He’s a graphic designer. I met him through the industry. Alex and I are friends and when we get together, we don’t talk about heavy metal. We talk about other stuff – books and art and film and just kind of nerdy stuff because we’re both kind of nerdy dudes. Tom, as a designer, had this idea to do a magazine with different editors every issue. He asked me and Alex and a few other people but nobody was able to commit fully so we just decided that the three of us would do the first issue. So it became an outlet for us to express our interests in things other than what we do for a living. I think most good artists - musicians, painters, writers, they have varied interests and that effects their art in a positive way. The more stuff you’re exposed to, the more well-rounded person you become. So Tom had this idea of doing a really nicely designed limited print magazine and Alex and I were the first two who came through with pieces. So we cranked out the first one and we wanted to bring in other people to work on the magazine and we wanted, specifically, a female voice because heavy metal, as most of us know, is kind of a boys club in a lot of ways. Even though there are a lot of female fans, there aren’t a lot of female musicians. What the reason for that is, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just the nature of our society and the scene. But we definitely wanted a woman’s voice to be represented so we reached out to few different people and came up with Alyssa White-Gluz who did a really cool piece for the magazine and we hope she is going to stay with us. It’s a neat magazine – it’s not disposable. It doesn’t look like your weekly paper that tells you what gigs are going on. It’s on really nice paper. The design is great. The print is nice. It’s a good time. So we’re working on that. It’s an opportunity for me to see my photography in print as well. Photos always look better printed than they do on little cell phone screens.
That was something I found interesting about this project was that in a time when everything is trending toward being online, that you decided to do something with the printed word, a format which I am constantly being told is a dying art form.
There are some great blogs and some great websites and all that but there’s something about having a tangible work of art – something well designed. The magazine freaking smells good, you know. When you pick it up you can really see the way it’s laid out. It is a smaller printing run – we’re not trying to beat Rolling Stone or anything. It’s something you wouldn’t read once and throw away. It’s something you can go back to again and again. I put a lot of thought into it and Tom puts a lot of thought into the design. I like to say it’s an objective artistic permanence. Once you read something online, unless you’re going to need to refer to it again, it enters your brain along with so much other information that it doesn’t stick. Once again, from an artistic point of view, as a photographer, I own a bunch of photo books and I enjoy looking at photography in print because you can revisit it and have time to peruse it. Plus you don’t need power or batteries to look at a magazine, so that’s sweet.
When did photography become a creative outlet for you?
I’ve been shooting for like 4 years now. I had this idea to do this documentary where I was going to completely unplug from the internet for a year, no cell phone, nothing. I was going to film a documentary about it. So I asked Don Argott who directed a documentary about my band called As the Palaces Burn what was reasonably priced camera that will shoot high quality footage that I can use for B-Reel stuff. He told me about a Canon 60D, so I bought that and started filming with it, some skateboarding and some interviews that I had done. Then one day I was in my kitchen and I decided to try to use it for what it is actually meant to be used for, which is taking pictures. So I just put it on the automatic “dummy” setting and took a picture of my coffee pot and the image popped up and I thought it looked really cool. From that point on it’s been an addiction. I shoot constantly. I’ve developed a relationship with Leica Cameras and I shoot them exclusively now because the optics are insane and the camera has a lot of history. It’s the camera that allowed what we know today as modern photography to exist – it was the first handheld 35mm camera. From that, came the creation of photo journalism and street photography because you didn’t have to lug this big thing around on a tripod of whatever. It’s just something that is really fascinating to me, going out into the world and looking at things in a different way. It forces you to look at things in a different way. I’m constantly framing everything now. I’m noticing the difference is quality of light. I’m noticing where shadows are. I’m noticing how fast things are moving. It’s given me a different perspective on the world as I move through it. It’s cool.
Is that documentary something that you’re still working on?
Well I was in the process of doing that and then I had a little legal trouble. So it was necessary to be in contact via email with lawyers and so forth once I got out of the gated community overseas. So I had to put that project on the shelf for a while but it’s definitely something I’m interested in pursuing. Because I guess I just was so tired of how these little telephones we have, they’re like leashes. You look at people in any major city just walking down the street like zombies. Everything is hyper connected and there is a lot of useless information being pounded into our brains by these little screens. I’m just as guilty of going down the internet rabbit hole as anyone else. You start looking up how to repair this fence in my backyard and you end up with weird skits of 70’s comedies done by drag queens in Miami or whatever. It’s just this strange thing that always happens when you surf the net. Once things settle down a bit, it is definitely something I want to do, just for my own sanity. When I start bringing it up, some people actually got offended, they were like, you can’t do that. I was like, why not? They ask, how will you tour? What will you do? Man, I toured in a van before there was ever GPS and all this other stuff. It can be done.
Is there anything on the horizon for Lamb of God – you just released The Duke EP. Are there plans to start writing again anytime soon?
Oh god no. Hell no. We’re still touring on the last record and the last thing I want to do is think about another Lamb of God record right now. We’re trying to figure out the end of this tour cycle. As far as I know, it’s still going on. All the details of that are being worked out right now. We’ve been touring on this since the February before last, we started in Australia. So it’s been two years we’ve been touring and I think there’s more to come but it’s not set in stone yet. But once this tour cycle is over, I’m walking away for a little bit. It’s time to chill for a little bit.
Well it looks like you’ve got plenty of stuff to keep you busy.
Oh yeah, too busy bro.
Better busy than bored.
Oh for sure. Bored equals trouble. That’s why I’m always writing and shooting photos and all that other stuff, to keep my dumb ass out of trouble because I will get into it if I’m bored.
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